Are Long-winded Sales Letters Still Effective?

Robin Henry

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Once or twice in the last five years I've read one of those inordinately lengthy sales letters from start to finish. (You know, the ones that Internet marketing gurus claim are essential to make huge sales. ) They must have been some of the better written, interesting letters. Or I must have been starved for some literary stimulation.

Now I realise that I really don't have time to read all the hackneyed stuff inserted to establish credibility and to show how many testimonials one has collected. After the third or fourth testimonial, it all gets a bit ‘ho hum’. We get the message.

Similarly, audio snippets are of little benefit and I usually pass them by. The ones I have listened to were simply readings of the written test. Why would I need to read it and hear it?

Today I came across one of those long sales letters and this time I took special note of how I process the information. First I read the opening paragraph to make sure that the program I had seen advertised was the one discussed here. Yes, it was. Yes, I was able to get a good overview of what this program was about right up front. I didn't have to wade through a tonne of fluff to find out what in hell this program was all about.

Next, I needed to know how much I was going to have to pay to own this program. Was that up front? No way. I scrolled down to the bottom of the six foot long page and eventually found a “Buy Now" button. Still no dollar signs anywhere to be seen. So I clicked on the Buy Now button and went to a processing site. Yes, the price was $97 and according to the writer, a terribly good bargain for a product who has made literally millions for so many people. If only I were to buy this program, my Internet marketing woes would all vanish and one day I'd be rolling in money like all of those about whom testimonials had been written.

While deciding whether I needed yet another program telling me how to make millions, I suddenly saw the freight fee of $75 and decided that today I could do without this product. ($172US is a fair stack of money in any currency).

So I backed out of the credit card processing pages and looked for another site I had on my list.

Now you know my MO. First, I verify what the program or service is . . . does it promote link management, is it MLM, a pyramid scheme, or simply an ebook you buy? Next, I want to know how much it costs and specifically if the fee is recurring (these can be a real trap!). After that I look for some additional information if I need it that will give me some reason to believe it's worth the fee being charged. Most of the ebooks and other digital media I come across are over-priced when considering what you pay for similar type information in hard copy format.

I spoke with several of my colleagues who buy information products and services online and asked how they handle long sales letters. Without exception, they do the same as me; get an overview, look for the price and then make a decision about whether to purchase. Also without exception, they are annoyed when they can't find a price until they click on an order button.

I strongly suspect that the reason why long copy is being used and ‘said’ to be so much more successful is that copywriters earn more producing long copy. Now, I may be completely off track, but one has to wonder. What would be more conclusive is for one of the high fliers of Internet marketing to run some different advertisements, some short, the others long and see what works best.

Now there's a challenge. One option for the short sales letters is to either provide two options for users - one long, one short and let them choose (click through statistics would reveal preferences). Alternatively, brief information could be provided at the sales letter stage and a link provided to further information for anyone who wants to read it.

While I'm deciding whether length is better than quality, I've changed one of my ebook sites to a shorter version with a subscription box where visitors can get further information by autoresponder if required. That way I get an email address too.

I'll see what eventuates with this altered approach and determine whether my belief that surfers are fatigued by the long-winded sales letter and now prefer the concise, succinct version. Watch this space for a reply.

Copyright Robin Henry 2005

Robin Henry is an educator, human resources specialist and Internet entrepreneur. He helps small and home-based businesses and individuals improve performance by applying smart technology and processes and developing personally. He runs his business Desert Wave Enterprises from his home base at Alice Springs in Central Australia, although at present he is working in the United Arab Emirates.


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